As Shasta County’s Northern Hispanic Latino Coalition prepared a celebration to honor César Chávez, the man associated with peaceful and successful campaigns against racism, bigotry and exploitation of human beings, several recent events of apparently dehumanizing character seemed to enshroud the festivities of our March 31 César Chávez state holiday.
Chávez – one of the most celebrated founders of the United Farm Workers labor movement (ufw.org) – must be spinning in his frugal pine box that lies under the very Delano dirt he toiled.
Last month a legislator from Kansas received severe, bipartisan criticism after suggesting that gunmen in helicopters shoot illegal immigrants like wild hogs. That legislator is state Rep. Virgil Peck, the current Republican Majority Caucus Chairman. He made the unstable remark on March 14, during a formal House Appropriations Committee debate on successes to control wild pigs in Kansas.
GOP Representative Marc Rhoades immediately condemned the remarks during the discussion. “I know that the preface to your question was an attempt at humor, but I would ask that in the future you refrain from comments that could be deemed inappropriate,” said Rhoades, the committee chairman. According to multiple reports, Peck was stoic and unapologetic.
“I was just speaking like a southeast Kansas person,” he rationalized. Peck confidently added that he expected no further controversy over his remarks. “I think it’s over,” he said.
That was … until the small conservative grassroots organization, “Somos Republicans” (Spanish for, “We Republicans”), issued the following unparalleled threats in a national press release on March 16, 2011:
“Somos Republicans are demanding an apology from Republican Kansas legislator, Virgil Peck, when he said it might be good to control illegal immigration the way the feral hog population has been controlled … There are people advocating to shoot the heads off of “illegal Mexicans,” and Peck’s behavior is extremely violent and inappropriate.”
“If Representative Virgil Peck does not apologize for his extremist comments, he will wind up permanently on our unfriendly-to-Hispanics list for the rest of his life, and his Kansas legend will be one of bigotry. We are horrified by his remarks and he is a disgrace to the party that was founded by Abraham Lincoln.”
The Republican state lawmaker apologized the following morning. “I’m Virgil Peck, and on Monday, I made an inappropriate comment,” the Republican state representative said in an on-camera statement. “For that, I’m sorry, and I apologize to anyone that I offended with my inappropriate comment. I’ll be more careful with my words in the future.”
Peck initially said he was only ” joking” and then released a terse, two-sentence statement saying, “My statements (Monday) were regrettable. Please accept my apology.”
• Last month, another Kansas legislator, Rep. Connie O’Brien, Republican-Tonganoxie, formally testified before the House Federal and State Affairs Committee about an experience she had with someone who was presumably an undocumented immigrant.
O’Brien said: “My son who’s a Kansas resident, born here, raised here, didn’t qualify for any financial aid. Yet this girl was going to get financial aid. My son was kinda upset about it because he works and pays for his own schooling and his books and everything and he didn’t think that was fair. We didn’t ask the girl what nationality she was, we didn’t think that was proper. But we could tell by looking at her that she was not originally from this country.”
Rep. Sean Gatewood, a Topeka Democrat, asked her, “Can you expand on how you could tell that they were illegal?”
O’Brien replied, “Well, she wasn’t black, she wasn’t Asian, and she had the olive complexion.”
• Democratic congresswoman Gabby Giffords of Arizona, her small entourage and a nine-year-old little girl wanting to learn a civics lesson were gunned down and killed by an apparently deranged, and arguably, politically motivated shooter.
• A home invasion by an anti-immigrant, Tea Party activist and Minuteman Militia leader with ties to Redding, Shawna Forde, gunned down and killed an American father (of Mexican descent) and his pleading, nine-year-old daughter, and left the mother critically wounded.
• A 17-year-old pregnant farm worker, Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, died of heat stroke while laboring in the scorching grape vineyards near Stockton in 2009. Her body temperature reached 108 degrees after being kept from water and proper medical attention. Although found guilty, the plea bargain gained probation and community service for the growers responsible.
Are we immersing our children in a mutating culture of hate, sociopathy and name-calling? Is it now acceptable to use a “right-way” to do a wrong-thing?
We seem surrounded – again – by the very inhumane things that outraged Cesar Chavez, Dr. Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus. They all peacefully sacrificed their lives for a better world. While César, Jesus, King, Honest Abe and Gandhi spin faster and faster, their collective, unified legacies are being hijacked.
No one’s laughing.
For more info about César Chávez and the Northern Hispanic Latino Coalition, call 530- 380-2199 or visit this site http://www.northernhispaniclatinocoalition.com/
Alan Ernesto Phillips is a proud son of Shasta County, a proud father of two daughters, and a local musician. He is a parenting educator, chemical-dependency counselor, victim-awareness counselor and developmental-asset builder and trainer. He also is a Clio and Telly award-winning filmmaker who produced and directed political campaigns for congressmen, senators, governors and one president (Ronald Reagan). His clients also included Coca-Cola, NIKE, CBS News and NOVA documentaries. He is a current board member and public affairs officer for the Northern California Hispanic Latino Coalition.
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